Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison, playing to an auditorium packed with thousands of OracleWorld attendees, on Tuesday touted grid computing as the single largest software development in 40 years.
Not since IBM Corp. developed the mainframe has there been such an important development in computing, Ellison said. Taking users on a journey to the center of the Oracle grid, Ellison outlined technologies such as automatic load balancing and Oracle's newest incarnation of its Enterprise Manager, now known as Grid Control.
Grid technology signals the end of the large, powerful single-server strategy, Ellison told attendees. Instead, customers will plug low-cost processors into their systems as their demand for computing power increases. Ellison said that only Oracle software can provide true enterprise grid technology today.
Oracle's Grid Control software is the key to successfully tapping into grid technology, Ellison said. "This is the first system that unifies application monitoring with component system monitoring," he said.
Joshua Greenbaum, principal consultant at Daly City, Calif.-based Enterprise Applications Consulting, agreed with Ellison's assertion that Oracle is currently ahead in the enterprise grid game. Still, Greenbaum said, Oracle's grid strategy is more of an evolution than a revolution.
"They're ahead because they are more modest in their goals," Greenbaum said. "They're looking at a grid solution that really is focused on the database. IBM is taking a much more futuristic approach."
Much of the focus at OracleWorld involves looking forward as well. Oracle's newest database release, 10g, isn't expected to ship for at least another six months, and many OracleWorld attendees are just beginning to become familiar with Oracle's definition of grid computing.
"I think I understand what they are trying to communicate," said Rick Montoney, an OracleWorld attendee and a DBA who works as an independent contractor in South Carolina. "The big question is how much effort, time and money will it take." If grid computing is the next big thing, he said, "I'd like to be prepared."
Database administrator Jim Martin traveled from Minneapolis to San Francisco this week to "get a first look at 10g."
Grid computing, Martin said, is still more of a concept than a concrete technology, in his mind. "Very little is known about it right now," he said.
Not to hear Ellison tell it. Oracle is telling customers to start accessing grid technology by consolidating servers, standardizing on low-cost platforms and automating processes -- with Oracle 10g products.
"We have an enterprise grid that runs every Oracle app you have today," Ellison said during his presentation.
Knowing that the industry is plagued by sometimes confusing, conceptual phrases such as "on-demand," "grid computing" and "utility computing," Ellison sought to distinguish Oracle from IBM in those arenas.
"IBM says, 'We'll install a big server, and you only pay for what you use,'" Ellison said. "So the power is available on demand." He classified this on-demand computing model as a billing procedure, or contractual approach. He also said it was a pricey option. "Whenever you're at the high end of computing, though, your cost per processor goes up. That's not what we mean when we say on-demand computing."
On-demand computing as Oracle defines it, Ellison said, allows users to add more small, low-cost processors as they need capacity. All of Oracle's application demonstrations, Ellison said, are conducted on a "two-processor Intel box that costs $5,000. It's the fastest processor in the world."
Trying to drive home his high-performance, low-cost sales pitch, Ellison said sarcastically, "If you want to go faster, then you need to be willing to pay less. You will just have to get used to it."
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